Before You Choose & Buy a Pilates Ring

Woman standing on yoga mat using Pilates Magic Circle

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The magic circle is a Pilates tool created by founder Joseph Pilates that's intended to help practitioners find their center. It's also referred to as a fitness circle, exercise ring, and a fitness ring, but "magic circle" is still the preferred name within Pilates. It is said that Joseph Pilates made the first magic circle from the ring of a keg. 

It's intended as a secondary prop, and any Pilates exercises can be done without a magic circle. But since they're lightweight and inexpensive, and have a variety of purposes within a Pilates practice, they've grown to become popular props. How can you choose which magic circle is right for you and learn to use it properly?

What Is a Magic Circle?

The Pilates magic circle is a ring, usually made of flexible metal or rubber, about 13 inches in diameter, with small pads on either side.

A magic circle provides muscular feedback and gentle to moderate resistance during a Pilates exercise. It is not intended to provide a heavy strength workout.

Users shouldn't pick one up and try to crush it together (although that's usually the first inclination). Instead, try Pilates magic circle exercises like the standing leg press or the arms back.

How Much Resistance Do You Need With a Pilates Ring?

Flexible metal is the most common material for magic circles. There are some that are all rubber, but the rubber models tend to be on the softer side or too "mushy." If you are a stronger person who wants a muscular challenge, then you will not want a rubber ring or even one of the "lite" versions of the metal. If your purpose is mild resistance and more body placement oriented, then a lighter ring could be perfect.

Portability Versus Durability

Magic circles are perfect for travel. They don't weigh much, they lay flat, and they take up little space in your luggage. If you are looking for an exercise ring that will stand up to a lot of use (studio use for example) then you will want a regular metal ring.

Get Pads on the Inside and Outside

It used to be that there were pads only on the outside of the circle. The newer trend is to put pads on the inside of the ring as well, which makes them more versatile. An exercise like the rainbow, for example, where you stabilize the ring with pressure on the inside, is much easier with pads.

How to Buy a Magic Circle

The best place to start is by asking your Pilates instructor, or to test one that your studio has available. If you do decide to buy one, it may be worth getting it at a shop where you can test it out and get a feel for it. You can also buy magic circles online.

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